Lexington, Ky. – Lucas Gentry and Gabe Schmitt each hit a pair of clutch treys down the stretch to lead the Transylvania men's basketball team to a 90-83 win over the Defiance College Yellow Jackets at the Beck Center on Saturday afternoon.
Transylvania evened its Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference record to 3-3 and 7-6 overall while the Yellow Jackets fell to 7-6 overall and 2-4 in conference play.
After building a 14-point halftime lead and expanding their lead to 21 four minutes into the second half, the Pioneers weathered an ardent second-half comeback by the Yellow Jackets with timely performances from their veteran players.
Five Pioneers scored in double figures while Michael Jefferson registered a career-high 13 assists to go with nine points, five rebounds and one block. Jefferson's dime output eclipsed his previous career-high of 11 assists on February 9, 2019 in an 87-67 win that also came at home versus Defiance.
Gentry led the way in the scoring column with 19 points and added four rebounds, two assists, and two blocks in an all-around performance. The junior hit 2 of 3 triples with his final 3-ball of the day at the 3:21 mark of the second half proving to be his most pivotal score.
Defiance crafted a 19-13 lead to open up the afternoon before the Pioneers countered with a 25-5 run to turn the game in their favor. Spencer McKinney hit back-to-back field goals for a 36-24 Transy lead with 7:34 to go in the first half and Trey Bryan followed with a jumper to extend the Pioneer advantage to 14 points.
As the Yellow Jackets rediscovered their offense late in the half, Zach Larimore threw in consecutive right-wing triples for a 45-30 Pioneer lead with three minutes to go in the first period. The sophomore would finish with 13 points off the bench on a 3-for-5 showing from downtown.
Will Sivills gave the Pioneers a boost heading into the break, hitting his second 3-pointer of the half with 15 seconds in the frame to push the Pioneers ahead of Defiance, 53-39 at halftime.
Transylvania's high-paced offense upped the ante on the way to a 62-41 advantage at the 15:29 mark of the second half before Defiance's defense ramped up and began forcing stops and turnovers against the Pioneers.
An 8-0 Defiance run cut its deficit to 62-49 with over 14 minutes remaining in the second half. The Yellow Jackets later used an assortment of 3-pointers and free throws to slice the Transy lead to 68-64 at the 8-minute mark.
As the contest entered its latter stage, both teams attacked the basket and traded buckets before Gentry hit a jumper with 5:29 left to give the Pioneers a 74-68 cushion. While Defiance's offense was flowing on the way to a 60-percent clip for the afternoon, Spencer McKinney fought for putbacks and cut to the basket for two straight scores, keeping the Pioneers ahead at 78-72 with 3:51 in the game.
Defiance's Jordan Marell connected on a midrange jump shot before Jefferson found Gentry for his signature play of the game, a long ball to extend Transylvania's lead to 81-74.
The Yellow Jackets were on the verge of completing their comeback with 1:45 to go, but each team experienced a drought over the following minute. After Gentry came up with a ferocious block on a Defiance possession with 1:03 to go in regulation, Gabe Schmitt put the game on ice when the senior knocked down a corner 3-pointer, effectively pushing the Pioneers across the finish line.
McKinney added 11 points, six rebounds, and four assists on 5-for-8 shooting from the field while Brandon Cromwell was the other double-digit scorer on Saturday; the freshman posted 11 points, four rebounds, and one assist in his first career start.
Transylvania connected on 11 of 24 three-pointers for a 45.8 percent rate and shot 50.8 percent from the floor overall.
The Pioneers are back on the court on Wednesday, January 15 to visit the Hanover College Panthers in Hanover, Indiana. Tip-off between the Pioneers and Panthers is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. from Collier Arena.
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